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A Morning in San Francisco

Alright, mostly just photos. Mostly about food.

We began the morning with breakfast at Sears Fine Food. Years ago (before the timeshare), we used to stay at the Chancellor, right next door. Then we stayed at a hotel on the other side of the Saint Francis at Union Square, and now we're on the opposite corner and about 3 minute's walk at a timeshare. If you stay in SF, stay close to Union Square. Just trust me. You'll have an amazing time. We do several weekends per year.

On the way, we went up to the 36th floor of the Grand Hyatt to take this.

San fran am

[Read more...]

Weekend

I'm likely to get something off in the AM, links most likely.

For the time being, I'm sitting at the bar in the Daily Grill, just off Union Square in amazing San Francisco.

As much as they try, the commies just can't seem to completely ruin it. I'm eternally charmed and count myself lucky to live a mere hour's drive away.

Next up: Morton's Steakhouse.

Weekend

What Do You Think You Know About LDL Cholesterol? (Pt 2 of 2)

Part One

The purpose of part one was to demonstrate the meaninglessness of calculated LDL cholesterol in relation to the equation used to calculated it, and how triglycerides, while being a very important risk factor for heart disease in its own right, have been steadily increasing on average and potentially giving a false sense of security as increases in triglycerides cause a mathematical (not necessarily biochemical) lowering of calculated LDL serum cholesterol.

I promised that in this second and final part, I will demolish the notion that you have any real idea of what your actual LDL cholesterol is, based on standard bloodwork involving calculated values. And I shall deliver.

Let me frame what I'm going to say this way: there are millions of people with low calculated LDL (say, <50-60) who are at infinitely more risk for atherosclerosis, rupture, and fatal heart attack than are many people with calculated LDLs in the high 200s and higher. If you eat significant amounts of carbohydrate, especially as processed food, have low HDL (<60), high triglycerides (>200), then it's essential to know exactly what your LDL really is. The standard blood panel is essentially worthless for this.

But I'm here to help. But first, let me show you what I mean by turning to Dr. William Davis, the cardiologist who originated Track Your Plaque and who blogs at The Heart Scan Blog. Dr. Davis, who used to practice by performing various coronary procedures such as installing stents, now spends his time detecting, preventing, and reversing heart disease.

He has lots of stories to tell. Let's get started.

Don't believe your LDL cholesterol!
"Harry's case is typical. For years, his doctor told him his LDL cholesterol of 123 mg was okay. But a heart scan score of 490 (90th percentile at age 52) made him question just where his coronary plaque came from.

"Lipoprotein analysis told a very different story: His LDL particle number was 2400 nmol, meaning his true LDL was more like 240 mg, nearly double the value of LDL obtained through his doctor. Harry had other sources of risk, too, but the LDL particle number was a clear stand-out. [...]

"...When LDL's are actually meaured, you find that LDL is rarely accurate. In fact, in our experience, inaccuracy of 30-50% is the rule, sometimes 100%. The one telltale hint that calculated LDL is wrong is when HDL is <50 mg -- that's nearly everybody. "

How accurate is LDL cholesterol?
"If there's so much attention paid to LDL, how accurate is it? 100%? 90%? 80%?

"Well, it varies widely. Occasionally, it's truly accurate, but most of the time it's miserably inaccurate. Every single day, I see people with LDL cholesterols that underestimates true (measured) LDL by 40%, 50%, and even over 100%. In other words, LDL cholesterol might be 120 mg/dl by the conventional method, but the genuine measured value might be 160 mg/dl, or even 240 mg/dl. It can be that far off -- and it's not rare.

"The converse can occasionally be true, though rarely in my experience: that conventional LDL overestimates true LDL. I saw someone in the office today like this, with a conventional LDL of 142 mg/dl but a true measured LDL of 115 mg/dl. I may see one or two more people like this the rest of this year."

When LDL is more than meets the eye
"I pointed out to Jerry that, given the low HDL and high triglycerides, his calculated LDL of 112 was likely inaccurate. In fact, if measured, LDL was probably more like 140-180 mg/dl. LDL particles were also virtually guaranteed to be small, since low HDL and small LDL usually go hand-in-hand (though small LDL can still occur with a good HDL).

"So Jerry's LDL is really much higher than it appears. To prove it, Jerry will require an additional test, preferably one in which LDL is measured, such as LDL particle number (NMR), apoprotein B, or "direct" LDL.

"It's really quite simple. Jerry likely has a high number of LDL particles that are too small. This pattern confers a three- to six-fold increased risk for heart disease."

The many faces of LDL
"Ginnie came in for an opinion about her heart scan score of 393. At age 57, this put her in the 99th percentile, a high score.

"LDL cholesterol: 96 mg/dl - This value puts Ginnie's LDL in the most favorable 25% in the country.

"LDL particle number: 2140 nmol/l - This value is in the worst 25% of the country and is the equivalent of an LDL cholesterol of 214 mg/dl (take off the zero).

"In addition, over 90% of Ginnie's LDL particles fell into the small class."

Making Dr. Friedewald an honest man
"Colleen started with the usual discrepancy between conventional calculated LDL cholesterol of 121 mg/dl and the far more accurate LDL particle number (NMR) of 1927 nmol/L. [...]

"In other words, by this simple manipulation, Colleen's Friedewald calculated LDL is off by 58%. This is very common, a phenomenon I witness several times every day.

"By LDL particle size, 75% of all Colleen's LDL particle were abnormally small (small LDL particle number 1440 nmol/L). This is a moderately severe small LDL tendency."

A Tale of Two LDL's
"Kurt, a 50-year old businessman with a heart scan score of 323, had a:

"--Conventional (calculated) LDL of 128 mg/dl - Real measured LDL 241 mg/dl.

"Laurie, a 53-year old woman who underwent a coronary bypass operation last year (before I met her), had a:

"--Conventional LDL of 142 mg/dl - Real measured LDL was 85 mg/dl.

"(By "real, measured" LDL, I'm referring to LDL particle number in units of nmol/L obtained through NMR lipoprotein testing and dividing by 10, or just dropping the last digit to convert the value to mg/dl. This technique was arrived at by comparing the population distributions of these two parameters, LDL particle number and calculated LDL. This is the gold standard in my view. Similar numbers can be obtained by measuring apoprotein B, direct LDL, or calculated non-HDL, with diminishing reliability from first to last.)

"In other words, Kurt's conventional LDL underestimated real LDL by 88%. Laurie's conventional LDL overestimated real LDL by 40%."

~~~

Had enough? Now do you see what I mean? I'll finish by quoting the heroic Dr. Davis once more from the last of those series of links.

Interestingly, Laurie's doctor had insisted she take Lipitor for a high LDL cholesterol. Her real LDL was, in fact, low to begin with and benefits of a statin drug would be little to none. (Remember, in our Track Your Plaque approach, multiple other treatments are included, such as omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, vitamin D normalization, and wheat elimination, strategies that yield benefits that others expect to obtain with statins.) Laurie's real cause of her heart disease proved to have nothing to do with LDL cholesterol, but involved lipoprotein(a) and thyroid issues.

Kurt proved to have a severe preponderance of small LDL particles--the worst kind of LDL, while Laurie had none--a benign pattern.

Then how can anyone make sense of the conventional, calculated LDL cholesterol that is generally (95% of the time) provided? If accuracy can stretch to plus or minus 80% . . . you can't. Conventional LDL is a miserably inaccurate number. The problem is that obtaining a superior number requires a step or two more testing and insight, something most busy primary care doc's simply don't have in the midst of a day filled with arthritis, bronchitis, diarrhea, belly aches, and seborrhea.

Yet conventional--I call it "fictitious"--LDL serves as the basis for this $27 billion (annual revenues) industry selling statin drugs.

This is meant to be neither an argument in favor of nor against statin drugs. However, it is plain as day that any study designed to reduce LDL cholesterol will be hopelessly clouded by calculated LDL imprecision. A calculated LDL of, say, 143 mg/dl might really be 187 mg/dl, or it might be 74 mg/dl--you can't tell by looking just at LDL. Yet billions of dollars of research and billions of dollars of healthcare costs are based on the treatment of this number.

So, what's your LDL? Unless you've actually had it measured, you do not know. Neither does your doctor. Are you on medications or dietary prescriptions as a result of the fiction that you believe is your LDL? And how about particle size? Large & fluffy are actually good, while small and dense are very bad. You might have a low LDL, but with a high percentage of small and dense particles, and you could be at 6 or 10 times the risk as someone with an LDL of 250, but 99% large & fluffy. Don't be fooled by your doctor, HMO, hospital, or the drug companies.

And guess what will reduce your small and dense LDL every time? You guessed it: get off the grains, (particularly wheat), sugar, processed foods, processed vegetable oils; and take omega 3s and vitamin d to get your levels above 60.

How do you find out what your LDL actually is? Dr Davis says, "Our preferred method is NMR (LipoScience) LDL particle number, probably the most accurate of all. Second best: apoprotein B, direct measured LDL, and non-HDL."

Thanks

Thanks to all of you for the many wishes for a happy birthday by email and writings on the wall on Facebook. I really appreciate it, and hope this single post serves as adequate acknowledgement. I turned 48 today.

Still working a few bits on the second LDL cholesterol post, but I'll be up later.

Just Go Ahead And Wait For “Public Policy”

I had to laugh.

The National Institutes of Health awarded Creighton University $4 million to continue its landmark study linking vitamin D to a reduction in cancer risk. The study’s findings, reported in June 2007, showed for the first time in a clinical trial that postmenopausal women consuming optimal amounts of calcium supplements, as well as vitamin D3 supplements at nearly three times U.S. government recommended levels, could reduce their risk of cancer by 60 to 77 percent.

“The vitamin D3 finding was a secondary goal in the original study,” said Creighton researcher Joan Lappe, Ph.D. “We must now confirm these findings with a clinical trial specifically designed to look at calcium, vitamin D and cancer. Confirmation is necessary in order to have evidence solid enough to change public policy regarding intake levels for vitamin D.” [...]

A total of 2,300 women will be recruited and followed for four years with half of the participants randomly assigned to take daily supplements containing 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 and 1,200 mg of calcium; the second group will receive placebos. (emphasis added)

There you go. Something that's intuitively pretty obvious (that most plants and animals need sunlight for various metabolic and biochemical processes) needs to wait four years so that greater exposure to natural, life giving sun (and/or vitamin D supplementation at sufficient levels) can receive the blessings of the "authorities" -- you know, like the people that have been advocating low fat, high carbohydrate diets for the last two decades as obesity and diabetes skyrocket; those kinda guys.

Moreover, I'm not hopeful by any means that even when they do get around to revising recommended daily intake upwards that it will be anywhere near what would be needed to get someone's 25(OH)D levels into the 60-80 ng/ml range. Why 60-80? See here.

Then this, from a recent email newsletter from Dr. John Cannell of the Vitamin D Council.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has quietly announced composition of the next vitamin D Food and Nutrition Board (FNB), a committee that will set recommendations for both adequate intake and upper limits well into the next decade. [...]

Unfortunately, the scientists who have led the vitamin D revolution for the last ten years are all excluded. The debarred include, but are not limited to, Drs. Vieth, Giovannucci, Garland, Hollis, Heaney, Wagner, Norman, Hankinson, Whitting, Hanley, etc.. For example, Dr Hollis actually wrote and received an FDA Investigational New Drug (IND) for vitamin D in 2003 that has allowed both him and many other investigators to perform vitamin D studies with doses well above the current upper limits. Why is he not on the committee? Dr. Vieth has performed many of the recent upper limit pharmacological dosing studies in humans. Why did the IOM exclude Dr. Vieth?

Then, of course, there's the utter embarrassment they call the American Academy of Dermatology and their recent ridiculous Position Statement on Vitamin D, which, to my gimlet eye, looks to be more of a position on full and continued employment for researchers and dermatologists.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that an adequate amount of vitamin D should be obtained from a healthy diet that includes foods naturally rich in vitamin D, foods/beverages fortified with vitamin D, and/or vitamin D supplements; it should not be obtained from unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

What astounding modern arrogance driven by ignorance.

How about this: in lieu of publicly pelting the BoD of the Academy with rotten tomatoes, how about they explain why melanomas are rare in poor, equatorial countries where people don't use sunscreen and work out in the sun a lot, verses higher rates the farther north you go in the northern hemisphere, or south you go in the southern hemisphere, where there's inadequate sunlight, countries are richer, people work indoors, and everyone can afford to be duped into buying and slathering sunscreen?

In the meantime, I'll keep taking my daily dose of 6,000 units of vitamin D, 15 times the levels recommended by "the authorities."

What Do You Think You Know About LDL Cholesterol? (Part One)

Are you aware that the LDL cholesterol results you get in your routine blood workup is likely a complete fiction? That's right, and it's because LDL isn't measured, but calculated. Here's the formula, called the Friedewald equation:

LDL = Total Cholesterol - HDL - Triglycerides/5

So, for example, if one goes on a grain based, high carb, low fat diet which is well known to make triglycerides skyrocket, what would be the effect on your (calculated) LDL, all else remaining about equal? Your LDL would go down, your doctor would be pleased, you'd be ecstatic, and you may have actually increased your risk of, um, death (but maybe not of a heart attack, so yippee!). In fact, both very high and very low LDL associate with all-cause mortality (death from all cause, not just cherry picking heart disease). Where does risk appear to be lowest? I'm not sure, but for cancer risk, it's an LDL of around 130, i.e., lower or higher equals greater risk, and remember, I'm talking about LDL alone.

So, you want to reduce your LDL like a good soldier? Then increase your triglycerides dramatically. All else remaining equal, each 5-point increase in Trigs gets you a point off your LDL. Increase Trigs by 100 (easy to do with grains, sugar, and other refined carbs) and you can lower your LDL by 20.

So what are triglycerides? Most simply, fat circulating in your blood. Government recommendations are for a level of 150 and below. Mine are 47, and what you might not know about high-fat (and consequently low-carb) dieters is that they all have pretty low triglycerides (in the 50-80 area). Those who eat lots of grains and sugars in the form of bread, pasta, rice, processed foods, sweetened sodas, and, yes, fruit juices: you'll see triglyceride (fat circulating in blood) levels of 200 and on up, sometimes way up. 300-400 and above are not uncommon. Alright, so, eat lots of natural fat (from animals, coconut, and olives) in order to reduce your sugar intake (carbohydrate) and you'll dramatically reduce your triglycerides; eat low fat with lots of sugar (carbohydrate -- yes; bread and pasta is, essentially: sugar), raise the fat levels in your blood, and potentially lower your LDL.

Conclusion: a six-pack of Coca Cola per day ought to do the trick. Trigs will skyrocket and your LDLs will probably go down. Your doctor will tell you you're doing a great job, and you can live in ignorant bliss.

Or, you can get wise about triglycerides. Jonny Bowden was out with an informative post a few days ago, Triglycerides: What You Need to Know. Now, with the foregoing Friedewald equation in mind, and my rather pedestrian analysis and examples, get a load of this.

New Analysis Shows Troubling Trend in Triglyceride Levels May Be Linked to Rising Rates of Obesity (that does not look to be a permalink, so you may end up having to search the NLA site)

A new 30-year analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) database conducted by the National Lipid Association (NLA) indicates that while Americans are doing a better job of managing LDL or "bad" cholesterol, the percentage of adults with high triglycerides, a blood fat linked to heart disease, has doubled, leaving many people at risk for potentially life-threatening events such as heart attack or stroke. Results of the analysis were presented today at the American Heart Association's Annual Scientific Sessions in New Orleans.

So, now, watch how they can't see the forest through the trees.

Between 1976 and 2006 the number of Americans with unhealthy isolated LDL levels dropped from 43 percent to 40 percent, an improvement that researchers attribute to more aggressive educational initiatives and treatment. However, far less emphasis has been placed on controlling triglycerides. The rising rates of isolated high triglycerides seen over the last three decades underscore the need for physicians and patients to understand and treat all three key lipids, which include LDL, HDL or "good" cholesterol and triglycerides.

Get it? They attribute lower LDLs with better education and treatment, when the Occam's Razor explanation is that by virtue of the equation they use, the majority of the lowering of LDL is likely a simple mathematical relationship having to do with elevated triglycerides. In other words, their "educational initiatives" have been to prescribe low fat, high sugar (carbohydrate) diets, resulting in grossly elevated triglycerides and moderately lower LDLs.

This is the outright FRAUD that's being perpetrated against you by "authorities" and "experts," many in the pay of the drug companies who want you popping statins.

And just in case you don't know, there's really no meaningful association between LDL and heart disease. Time and time again, if hundreds of thousands of heart attack patients are analyzed, half have low LDL and half have high LDL. It's irrelevant. However, the association with high triglycerides is very well established. See here and here and here, and that's just a 5-second Googling. I could get you a dozen more in five minutes.

Even the National Lipid Association, from which this study and statement originate, acknowledges an independent association with triglycerides.

...triglycerides are the third component of the lipid profile and are an independent and compounding risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. Studies have shown that the risk of developing heart disease doubles when triglyceride levels are above 200 mg/dL. When triglycerides are above 200 mg/dL and HDL cholesterol is below 40 mg/dL, a person is at four times the risk of developing heart disease.

Tomorrow, in Part Two, I shall demolish the notion that you have any clue as to what your LDL really is. If you are getting standard blood tests, you have no idea what your LDL is, and I can prove it. That number on your printout is completely worthless and meaningless. And, if you take any real stock in it, and you have triglycerides over 150, or even 100, you are probably living under a false sense of security, courtesy of the "experts."

What Do You Think You Know About LDL Cholesterol? (Pt 2 of 2)

Modern Day Weston Price?

Well, perhaps not exactly, but let's see if we can't find something to cheer about. But first, in review:

In 1939, he published Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, a book that details a series of ethnographic nutritional studies performed by Price across diverse cultures.

Some of the cultures studied include the inhabitants of the Lötschental in Switzerland, the inhabitants of the Isles of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, the Eskimos of Alaska and Canada, the Native Americans, among the inhabitants of New Caledonia, Fiji, Samoa, the Marquesas Islands, Tahiti, Rarotonga, Nukuʻalofa, Hawaii, the Masai, Kikuyu, Wakamba and Jalou tribes of Kenya, the Muhima of Uganda, the Baitu and Watusi of Rwanda, the Pygmies, and Wanande in the Congo, the Terrakeka, Dinka and Neurs of Sudan, the Aborigines of Australia, the inhabitants of the Torres Strait, the Māori of New Zealand, the Tauhuanocans, Quechua, "Andes Indians", "Sierra Indians" and "Jungle Indians" of Peru.

In his studies he found that plagues of modern civilization (headaches, general muscle fatigue, dental caries (cavities), impacted molars, tooth crowding, allergies, heart disease, asthma, and degenerative diseases such as tuberculosis and cancer) were not present in those cultures sustained by indigenous diets. However, within a single generation these same cultures experienced all the above listed ailments with the inclusion of Western foods in their diet: refined sugars, refined flours, canned goods, etc.

The book is available online.

Now comes San Francisco physician, Daphne Miller, and a book called The Jungle Effect. Given the title of this blog, that's certainly a book title that I could get behind.

Jungle_effect

So, just from the cover, I can kinda get an idea of which way this book slants. I'm sure Michael "eat mostly plants" Pollan would approve.

At any rate, thanks to a friend down the hall (thanks, Marcus) I did listen to a radio interview and I think she does get a lot of fundamentals right. Obviously, number one and the thing I can even agree with whole food vegetarians and vegans about: dump the flour, sugar, vegetable oils and all the myriad products derived therefrom, and you'll be way better off. And, in fact, in spite of all the cheering around here over natural fats and the meats they go so well together with, it must be emphasized that the very most critical aspect of all of this is getting the processed frankenfood crap out of your life.

You'll be glad you did, and you may even end up embracing a Paleo-like, high-fat diet, as I do.

Now, this is not a book review. Dave Dixon at Spark of Reason has done a more than adequate job of that.

However, I did listen to the complete 55-minute interview on KQED, public radio. That was quite interesting in that she clearly understands that it's not just natives eating native food, but what happens to some of the natives who venture to the modern world. They get the same sets of diseases, and when they return, they no longer look anything like their brothers and sisters -- no bout a result of many added pounds, as well as the fat-face inflammation that I used to suffer from and so many Americans still do (for more information, consult the "Dean Ornish chubby-face diet"). She also seems to know about disease association issues with vitamin D, and says that virtually 100% of the patients she sees in San Francisco are deficient.

But the real funny thing, one that gives me a different perspective than I had after reading Dave's book review, is her manner of almost apologizing over the issue of fat. In one segment of the interview, she acknowledges healthful cultures that get a lot of fat from heavy cream. She offers it up both apologetically and also as a kind of paradox. In another segment, she admits that the Okinawans totally converted her to being a pork lover and now she even cooks with "modest" amounts of lard. (You know, the Okinawans who live so long because of the white rice and fish they eat.) Anyway, note to the doc: you know about the Inuit "paradox," I gather. How about the Massai, who get about 35% of calories from saturated fat? And most of all, how about the Tokelauans, who get a whopping 50% of their calories, not just from total fat (60%+), but from saturated fat. I trust, good doctor, that you don't need a lesson in hypothesis (diet-heat-cholesterol) falsification.

Anyway, lest I dwell too much on the negative, I am generally positive about Dr. Miller's work, Dan Buettner's Blue Zones work, and heck, even Michael "eat mostly plants" Pollan.

Let's get over processed and "convenient," packaged, flour and sugar laden anti-food, and then we can quibble about how much fat, how much meat, how little vegetable, etc. And, even though I avoid all grains and legumes (as well as dairy), as I want optimal nutrition (and grains and legumes can't hold a candle to meat, fat, veggies, fruits and nuts, when these replace grains and legumes in the diet), there is certainly benefit to handling some of the nastier lectins in grains and legumes through soaking, sprouting, and/or fermenting -- all methods used by various wise cultures over centuries.